Travel to South Georgia Island: A Wildlife Oasis

A wild island in the South Atlantic Ocean where there is a diversity of marine life like no other place on earth.

Friday, May 14, 2021

South Georgia Island is an oasis for wildlife in the South Atlantic Ocean where there is a diversity of marine life like no other place on earth. This wayward island is more than 1000 miles east of the tip of South America. It is home to one of the highest concentrations of wildlife on Earth. It’s estimated 30 million breeding birds call South Georgia Island home and half of the world’s entire population of Southern Elephant seals. To learn more about South Georgia from our expert guide, Cheli Larsen, watch our recent webinar.

Set southeast of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia rises steeply from the sea, forming a crescent-shaped landscape. Abundant in glaciers and sheer, rugged peaks, it is believed to once be part of the greater Andean mountain range. With eleven mountain peaks looming above 7,000 feet / 2.130 meters and an estimated 160 glaciers peppered among them, consequently, South Georgia’s expansive and frayed coastline stands stark against the South Atlantic Ocean.  Its beaches beckon seals, penguins, and other wildlife to stake a claim and thrive here.

Since the early 1900s after the first explorations in the South Atlantic Ocean, South Georgia has won the allure of historic explorers like Ernest Shackelton to present-day travelers who are passionate birders, avid photographers, and nature lovers in general. Penguins, seals, albatross, and whales are just a few of the wildlife species travelers can expect to see during our Sea Voyages.

Penguins

Chinstrap, Gentoo, King, and Macaroni penguins make up the 7 million penguin population on South Georgia Island. South Georgia also has one of the world’s largest colonies of King penguins, about 250,000 breeding penguins. During certain times of the year, there could be around one million penguins on South Georgia’s beaches.

A colony of King Penguins in South Georgia. Photography by Ruslan Eliseev.

A colony of King Penguins in South Georgia. Photography by Ruslan Eliseev.

 

Macaroni penguins have one of the highest populations of any species in the world, numbering about 5 million. From our ship Magellan Explorer, we take zodiacs to view these sneaky fellows gingerly climbing up cliffs.

Seals

In the summer, in late November and early December, we see an explosion of life in South Georgia. Travelers have a chance to see beaches teem with hundreds of thousands of Fur and Elephant seals.

One of the largest colonies of Elephant seals crowd the beaches during the October breeding season like in Gold Harbor. You may be able to witness the male Elephant seals fight for their place and establish their territory. They create their harems on the beach, and one male can have a harem of up to 100 females!

Seals in South Georgia. Photography by Rodrigo Moraga.

Seals in South Georgia. Photography by Rodrigo Moraga.

 

Whales

South Georgia has a history in polar exploration just as it does in sealing and whaling. Until the 1960s whaling was a common activity in South Georgia. Now we visit some abandoned stations and connect how the islands used to be, how humans used to conceive nature at that time, and compare that to how we see them now.

Historic and abandoned whaling station at South Georgia. Photography by Rodrigo Moraga.

Historic and abandoned whaling station at South Georgia. Photography by Rodrigo Moraga.

 

During our expeditions, we spend time at sea between destinations. There are sights to be seen onboard as well as on land. Onboard, and depending on the time of the year, travelers may get a glimpse of the majestic whales that migrate the Antarctic Ocean waters. The most common sightings are Humpback and Fin whales and to a lesser extent the Southern Rights or Blue whales.

Whale tale, blog Antarctica21, photo by Ana Carla

Whale tale, blog Antarctica21, photo by Ana Carla

 

Albatross

Over 250,000 albatrosses soar through South Georgia. On Prion Island you can see the Wandering albatrosses nesting. They are the largest of their kind with a wingspan of 9 feet / 3 meters. Since we travel in early Spring, you may have the chance to see chicks that have survived the winter take off for a first flight. These chicks will spend five years feeding around the Southern Ocean before they return to land.

Bird watching from the ship. Photography by Keegan Pearson.

Bird watching from the ship. Photography by Keegan Pearson.

 

Are you interested in visiting South Georgia and seeing the wildlife for yourself? Cruise through South Georgia on one of our expeditions to the Falklands (Malvinas) & South Georgia or the Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctica.

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